The livestock market or ‘The Mart’ is a place I am not familar with. Even though Dad is a sheep farmer it isn’t a place I have frequented, mainly due to either being at school, uni or quite frankly, not finding the early morning start appealing! But a photographic assignment took me to Llanybydder and Tregaron, on two wet cold days. The Mart may have been chilly, but the welcome was warm.
A smile works wonders…..
I was slightly nervous about going along, no one knew me, I would have cameras, they might be wary of me, especially in light of recent anti farming views. But I needn’t have worried.
The key though is to smile, say hello to everyone, engage in conversation, ask them about themselves and tell them who your dad, or mum is! Boom! They relax, they smile, they ask how your parents are, and all is good! They start to relax in-front of the camera, joke with those that don’t know who I am, that I am there to check tyre tread, or make their friend look at the camera!
Thank goodness for Gwyneth… ‘do you know who this is’… she would say as she presented me to a farmer, for which I would be greeted with a blank stare – Bills daughter! A smile, a relax…. Oh so where do you live? What are you doing? How is Bill? Is he here
A place of community….
The Mart is not just a place to sell sheep or cattle, it is a place for farmers to come together, a place to meet, once a week, or once a month, yes to sell, but for much more than that.
Imagine that you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, you are surrounded by green fields, amazing landscapes, your nearest neighbour is a mile away, your farm is at the end of the track and the only person you might see in your working hours is the postman. For many of us, we dream of such idyll, but imagine doing that everyday, with the added struggle of weather, unforeseen circumstances, ill livestock, stresses of bureaucrats… and then see how we feel about it. THIS is why the mart is so important to the farmer. It gets them off the farm, it gets them to others, it gets them to their friends.
Friendship is strong in rural areas, it has to be. You have to be there for each other, you have to look out for each other, you have to help each other. You have to come together as a community, and it is powerful.
The Mart is place to take your time. You can’t rush livestock, they need to be kept calm. Shouting and hollering will only upset them. So it is a place of routine, and a place to take your time, to have a cuppa, to eat a bacon sandwich and to chat, to lean against the pen or to take a sit down. The sale starts at 11 and no sooner.
A place of men…
The Mart is a place for the men. A few women doing paperwork, the ladies in the café and a few wives and girlfriends. But this is the place for men. This is a place they bring their livestock, it is a place they can stand, not looking at each other, talking about livestock, costs, the weather and hopefully, eventually, themselves. But if not, it is a place they have come, not to feel alone, for a morning, they will feel part of a community, part of something greater than them. And if they have done a good job they will go home with some gossip for the wife!
I looked around the Marts, farmers unloading livestock, men with jobs to do, unspoken, all knowing where to be and what to do, which gates to open, where to stand out the way and I smiled. I was in awe. In awe that on this cold wet day, there was friendship, there were smiles, there was laughter… a lot of laughter. Me being there might have added some interest, some banter, some jesting, but for that I am happy. Because being at these Marts made me happy. It made me want to be part of that community, and certainly made me want to go back and hear their stories.
For the sake of out rural farming communities’ places like these need to be preserved, their place in the community is vital to the survival of that community.
Photography, Listener of thoughts, asker of questions, Writer of Blogs
I am Sian Mercer, the writer of these blogs, which are based on thoughts and ideas, quetions I have asked, feelings I have had and wonders which have been answered.
I am a photographer, please check out my website www.myruraltribe.com to see my work and book your own photoshoot, for your rural business or family.